State's summer meal program continues to grow
Though the federal Summer Meal Program has grown appreciably in the state of Iowa, a full 90 percent of Iowa students who receive free and reduced-price meals during the school year still go it alone during the summer months.
The Iowa Department of Education is looking to reduce that by getting new program sponsors throughout the state.
This summer, there is an all-time record 507 serving sites, up from 446 last year. And there are 168 sponsors of the program – ranging from private nonprofits to churches to cities – up 16 from last year. What’s more is that the program hit over 1.1 million meals served last summer – up a full 20 percent from the year before.
“The increase is due to some of the partnerships we have,” said Department Consultant Stephanie Dross. “We have worked to increase the number of sponsors and sites, as well as the awareness around the program through comprehensive outreach and expanded partnerships with state and local stakeholders.”
Still, the growth doesn’t come close to ensuring all students are fed during the summer.
“We know that hunger impacts one in five children in Iowa, and when school is out, many families who rely on school meals don’t get the food they need,” Dross said. “The Summer Food Service Program helps families overcome these challenges by providing funding to schools, public agencies, and nonprofit organizations to serve nutritious meals and snacks. Increasing participation in summer meals is critical to ensure the health and well-being of children and their readiness to return to school in the fall.”
There are underserved regions throughout the state, including 12 counties* that don’t have any summer meal sites whatsoever.
The Summer Food Service Program is federally funded, in which sponsors receive reimbursement.
Families can text “food” or “comida” to 877-877. They can call 1-866-3-HUNGRY and 1-877-8-HAMBRE. They can also visit www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks.
If you want to be a sponsor in the summer of 2017, contact Dross at 515-281-4760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, O’Brien, Plymouth, Harrison, Shelby, Taylor, Mitchell, Grundy, Buchanan, and Delaware.